Before I decided to focus on my jewelry business, I worked at a family support program in the city in which I live. The work emphasized the importance of community in parenting. One saying I heard repeatedly was “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a staff member, I always felt like I was part of something bigger, and I loved being a part of that village. The families who attended our programs and the staff with whom I worked were so much more than just a job. They were my community, the people who supported me, taught me, and inspired me.
Though I knew I would miss being a part of this amazing community when I decided to take the plunge toward self-employment and focus on my creative endeavors, I also relished in the freedom of working for myself. Setting my schedule, deciding how to spend my days, learning new skills, and of course making jewelry were just a few of the things I loved about being a small creative business owner.
However, after some time passed, it became apparent to me that one thing was very clearly lacking: community.
While hours would pass in what seemed like a matter of minutes as I worked on growing my business and learning everything I could, I felt alone. Whereas at my previous job there were always people around–people with whom I could discuss both work and my personal life–it was not immediately obvious who I could turn to for support in my current role. I felt a little lost.
In February of this year I received an e-mail notification that Boston Handmade was accepting applications for artists and crafters to join. More than just an artist association, Boston Handmade members work to support each other “in the pursuit of creativity made by hand” (quoted from here). I was struck by the group’s focus on fostering a creative community where members could learn from one another, and quickly got started on my application.
In March I was very excited to find out I was accepted to Boston Handmade, and within a short period of joining I knew I had found what had been missing in my new profession. In addition to communicating with each other online nearly every day, sharing information about upcoming shows, personal and professional successes, and sometimes just to have a good laugh, we have monthly meetups where we do more of the same in person. We promote each others’ work, through our blog to which we all contribute, social media, our personal blogs and trunk shows. We teach each other new skills, from product photography to spinning yarn, jewelry making to blogging.
Through being a part of this creative community, I not only built up my network, but I have gained both new friends as well as confidence in my own skills as a creative business owner.
I recently attended an OMHG chat, where we discussed our ideal creative community. The words I used to describe mine–supportive, nurturing, welcoming; pushes you and celebrates successes; members who want to learn from each other and willingly share skills; makes you feel like everyone has something to offer, regardless of background or experience–are what I would use to describe Boston Handmade.
Being part of this awesome creative community has made me realize something: being a creative business owner does not happen in isolation. You need the support of your fellow artists to truly learn, grow, and flourish. It takes a community to grow an artist.
Photo credits: Boston Handmade Marketplace Photo by Jessica Burko. Every summer Boston Handmade organizes marketplace where members and other local artisans can showcase and sell their handmade goods. Teaching chainmaille photos by Kerry Hawkins are from a chainmaille workshop I taught on Monday to some of my fellow Boston Handmade members.
Meet Bev of Linkcouture
Bev Feldman is a planner gone rogue. After leaving her job in the human services in late 2011 to travel around South America with her husband, she decided to focus on her creative side and be a full-time jewelry artist and blogger at Linkouture. When she’s not working on her business, she enjoys potlucks with her friends, buying local goodies at farmers markets and craft shows, and traveling to new as well as familiar places.